Citizenship of stateless children in Sarawak: Matter not discussed under devolution of power

A screengrab of the DUN sitting's live broadcast of Fatimah in the Chamber.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, May 19: The citizenship of stateless children in Sarawak is not a matter discussed under the present devolution of power exercise given that it has always been agreed to be a federal matter even with reference to the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report and Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) as well as the Federal Constitution.

Although the Sarawak government concurred on the need for a speedy decision on the application from stateless Sarawak children, Minister for Women, Early Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah however informed that the decision of citizenship lies with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“It is a federal matter under Article 74 read together with Item No. 5 of Federal List of Ninth Schedule of Federal Constitution,” she told the august House when responding to a question from Datuk Ding Kuong Hiing (GPS-SUPP).

Ding had questioned the State government’s plans to speed up the process of tackling the stateless children issues, apart from the proposed issuance of a “temporary document”.

Fatimah pointed out that the birth of an individual in Malaysia does not guarantee Malaysian citizenship as it is determined based on marital status and citizenship status of the biological parents of the individual at the time of birth, in accordance with provisions of Part II of the Federal Constitution, Citizenship Rules 1964 and relevant legislation in force on marriage registration, adoption, child legality and immigration regulations.

“For births that occur before the registration of the parents’ marriage, the child’s citizenship is according to the mother’s citizenship in accordance with the legal provisions under Section 17, Part III, Second Schedule, Federal Constitution.

“The issue of children born in the country without documentation will only arise because of parents not playing the role of responsible parents,” she explained.

She said that among the measures currently taken by the government to address the issue of citizenship is through the application for Malaysian citizenship of either through registration or naturalisation in accordance with the conditions set out in the Federal Constitution.

The Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship was established in 2016 to facilitate the consideration of citizenship applications received in Sarawak.

“Through the Sarawak Social Development Council, the Ministry has implemented four series of programme, dialogue and ID documentation issues between 2017 and 2021 in Kuching, Mongkos, Serian and Lubok Antu (to raise awareness and advocacy on the matter).

“This year (2022), we are planning to hold similar dialogues in Biawak, Bakelalan, Long Bedian and Long Bangat. The Ministry will collaborate with the National Registration Department, Immigration Department, Health Department, Education Department and the Indonesia Consulate for the intervention programme,” she added. — DayakDaily